When buying behavior began to change and become more digitally enabled, digital and marketing transformation became a mantra for businesses in all industries. But despite the digital shift and waves of technology spawned to support it, companies are still struggling to achieve the elusive finish line for true transformation. If you think it’s a technology problem, you’re not alone. But more often than not, it’s actually an approach problem.
Even within the walls of LeadMD, we spent several years trying to perfect an approach that would drive comprehensive change for client organizations. We’ve since adopted a change model that can break down the false barrier to change, but a good portion of organizations and consultancies haven’t. This is because the problem is ingrained in how we go about solving problems, fundamentally, in B2B. Here’s a deeper look at what I mean, so you can identify whether you’ve been held back by the approach itself, and what you can do to get it right.
Where Do You Start with Digital Transformation?
If you think of Digital Marketing through the analogy of a mountain, the foundation would actually be flipped – strategy would reside at the top, and tactics like Demand Generation, Account-Based Marketing as well as the execution of the programs and campaigns that support them would be at the bottom. This reflects what successful organizations know well, that strategy rolls downhill as it drives every decision, process, tactic and tool necessary to engage today’s modern buyer.
Effective consultancies help clients figure out what they’re actually doing as a business, their objectives, who they sell to, how those buyers buy – and as a result assemble what is ultimately the Go-to-Market Strategy. We have something called the Catalyst Marketing Framework, which is rooted in this concept of “dependencies.” It means that even the seemingly simplest decision must be informed by these strategic elements at the top of this mountain. And it’s true – digital transformation must stem from this.
The first problem with modern-day transformational consulting, though, is that it tends to happen in siloes, across deliverables, departments and agencies, with little collaboration. The second problem, however, is even worse. The work being performed at the top of this transformational mountain, the really foundational stuff like research, developing the Total Addressable Market and Ideal Customer Profile and ultimately the marketing strategy, is being performed with absolutely no operational dexterity – i.e. no understanding of how to turn those strategies into practical action. The entire approach needs to be transformed.
How Do You Execute to Digital Transformation Strategies?
Getting back to our mountain analogy, the strata that define the path to success read like any best practice guide from the last decade: Strategy, Process & Planning, Tactics, Technology and finally People – there’s nothing new there. But it’s how we approach each of those areas that needs to change – organizations essentially have to look both up and down the mountain simultaneously to ensure that each element is informed by the rest. This is literally impossible to do in a silo and it’s the reason that companies have struggled for years to create real change passing one un-informed deliverable to the next layer when in fact that element, whatever it may be, had to be created with a mutual expert understanding of its strategic and tactical dependencies. We call this “informed delivery.”
If you start at the top handing deliverables from one area to the next, your hands will be tied once you get to tactical execution; that big presentation document is effectively a very expensive paper weight. But if you develop your go-to-market strategy, determine the tactics that best enable that strategy and then in turn optimize deliverables like Target Account Profiles and Buyer Personas so they are purpose built to be operationalized, now you’ve achieved informed delivery. In other words, outputs designed to see the light of day. Transformation, like Marketing itself, is a series of dependencies, and we have to tackle transformation projects in an informed manner to ensure every aspect of our Go-To-Market motion is intentional and integrated.
Successful Digital Transformation Must … Transform
Digital transformation is supposed to be exactly that – transformative. But instead, marketers have mostly just taken the old processes that weren’t serving them and added in digital elements. If you have great research about your buyer but none of that detail resides at a level that can actually be captured in the form of data and housed in a system, then your technology can’t consume it, and your team can’t use it in a meaningful way. Instead, you need to use your research to inform your data to enable your actions. This requires a tactical perspective when creating things like personas. That perspective will enable the translation of, in our example, personas into data that can actually power processes and programs in a way that isn’t just digital, it’s also effective.
Digital Transformation Requires Agility
While the mountain illustration is helpful, it’s important to realize this isn’t a linear journey. You don’t start at the top and simply work your way to the bottom; rather, the process has to be agile. At LeadMD, we like to say we “zoom out to zoom in.” In other words, you need to understand as an organization the strategy you’re pursuing, but at the same time you have to be thinking way down the mountain into the tactics that will enable that strategy and proactively making adjustments to the strategy with that endgame in mind. So, you set the strategy and zoom out to look ahead to tactical execution, and then you zoom back in to make sure you’re addressing all of the required dependencies. This happens in tandem, rather than in a waterfall fashion.
Mind the Gap: Prioritize the Right People
One of the main issues with consultants and consultancies today is that experts are running largely disjointed processes, based on their own specialized expertise. Companies spend a lot of money with consultants to define their ideal customers, but elsewhere someone is looking at inbound leads and using a highly templated lead scoring model based on website or content engagement and passing those leads to sales as “hot.” The Ideal Customer Profile never made it into that scoring model, because it wasn’t designed to. That’s not prioritizing the buyers the company is actually aiming for; it’s prioritizing the people you have access to. The results from this are not only crap, but they’re also a false positive.
Instead, you need an expert team to conduct that market research that knows not only how to understand buyers, but also how to translate buyer traits into firmographic, demographic and behavioral models that can be accepted by your tech stack and taught to your teams. This way, your understanding of the buyer both informs tech and is informed by tech, so you can get the right people there to prioritize in the first place. You can’t just plug a glossy buyer persona into a tactical system; it has to be translated into real world data first. By understanding tactics and technology, the work product is again purpose built to be deployed.
A Digital Transformation Failure Example
Think of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) as an example. Let’s say a company is transitioning to an ABM Go-To-Market strategy. They may acknowledge they want to work with a strategic consultancy to understand their strategy, what technology they should buy, who they should hire, etc. But down the road, they realize they missed process and planning. So while they’re in the middle of implementing a marketing automation solution, they try to develop necessary processes on the fly, right there within the tech layer. We see this often, and it’s an absolute recipe for failure. Again, you have to zoom out to zoom in.
The way many organizations think about transformation is changing, largely due to the fact that past efforts simply haven’t worked – and for all the reasons I’ve outlined here. To drive successful change, you have to work with experts who can see the whole picture, from strategy to tactics and everything in-between. This isn’t a job for a tactician, this isn’t a job for a strategist, it’s a job for experts in both areas with informed perspective. After all, without perspective, you’ll never see or conquer the entire mountain that is digital marketing transformation.
Meet Justin Gray
Justin is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of LeadMD, the world’s largest revenue operations agency having implemented over half of the Marketo user base. Justin has made a career of launching successful companies and scaling them, with successful exits of over 200MM+ in the last decade. Justin’s latest endeavor launched in 2016 when he co-founded Six Bricks an online learning startup designed to combat employee and customer churn through experience-based education. Over the past 10 years, Justin has emerged as a strong voice for entrepreneurship, marketing and culture. As a recognized speaker, Justin has been published over 350 times in industry publications and holds his own column, Tribal Knowledge in Inc., while writing for Entrepreneur, Tech Crunch and others. Justin and his wife Jennifer met over marketing and three years later welcomed their son, Grayson, into the world in April of 2017.